Novartis has presented more late-stage data on its investigational chronic obstructive pulmonary disease drug indacaterol which the Swiss major says show significant benefits over Boehringer Ingelheim/Pfizer’s Spiriva.

The Phase III data on the once-daily indacaterol, also known as QAB149, was presented at the European Respiratory Society meeting in Vienna. It revealed that the drug significantly improves lung function compared to Spiriva (tiotropium), at both 12 and 26 weeks of treatment.

The 26-week data also revealed that indacaterol “provides a significant reduction in breathlessness” over Spiriva. Other new data revealed that patients on QAB149 also had a highly significant, greater than 20%, increase in days during which no 'relief' medication, therapies used to treat acute episodes of severe breathlessness, was required compared to patients treated with tiotropium. The data build on those presented at the American Thoracic Society meeting in San Diego earlier this year.

Trevor Mundel, global head of development at Novartis Pharma, said that QAB149 “has the potential to be recognised as the best bronchodilator for COPD”, adding that the drug will “form the foundation of a new portfolio of products, designed to improve patients' respiratory health”. The company quoted Ronald Dahl, of the University Hospital of Aarhus, Denmark, as saying that the indacaterol data “in effect mean that the improvements in lung function are accompanied by important quality-of-life improvements that our patients need”.

QAB149 is currently under regulatory review in the European Union and the USA.